Neil Sullivan was a quiet achiever in the 1894 premiership team as a half-forward flanker or forward pocket. He then largely disappeared from public view, apart from his attendance at funerals.
Sullivan came into the Norwood team from the juniors in 1894 and on 29 September kicked two goals in the exciting win over Port Adelaide for the right to play South Adelaide for the flag. As every player threw himself into the frantic finish, The South Australian Register reported that Sullivan got the ball "but could only put it close up. (Jim) Polglase gave him the ball again, and with a groan the magenta supporters sat down as the two flags signalled a goal". Norwood won 7.6 to 6.7 and the following week drew with South, necessitating a replay.
On 10 October, Norwood and South played off for the premiership at Adelaide Oval before a crowd of 9,000, the best of the season. It was a tight match in wet conditions. In the tense last quarter, Sullivan gave Alby Green the opportunity to punt a shoe-in goal but he muffed his kick and South was able to cling to a slender lead. Fortunately for Norwood, Os Bertram made a late sortie and 'Bos' Daly managed to get his foot to the ball to snatch victory by a goal.
Summing up the season, The Advertiser said: "(Jim) Mullaney and Sullivan have been useful men, and though they have not shone so conspicuously as some of the other juniors they have been well worth their places."
Sullivan joined the exodus of Norwood men to the Golden West in 1895 and played five games with West Perth that season. He may have been the N. Sullivan who was among the mourners at the funeral of ex-Geelong footballer Jack Sommers, of the Victoria Hotel, at Coolgardie on 11 December 1895.
In an article on The Old Brigade - the legion of Norwood footballers who had played in Western Australia - the WA Sportsman of 4 June 1915 briefly mentions "Neil Sullivan, last heard of in Fremantle". In March 1904 a Cornelius Sullivan appeared before a Fremantle court and was remanded for a medical report after he allegedly tried to drown himself.
A Cornelius Sullivan also featured in Adelaide newspaper reports in 1919 - in February, fined two pounds with 15 shillings costs for failure to furnish an income tax return; and in December, released on a bond on a charge of attempted suicide after he cut his throat with a razor. "I was very lonely and had nobody with me," said the plaintiff, who was not necessarily the former Norwood player.
Neil was certainly among the mourners at the funeral of former Norwood and South player Alf 'Sloppy' Clift at the West Terrace Cemetery on 22 June 1925. Neil Sullivan and family sent flowers when former South player and SANFL Life Member John Bertram 'Tas' Windsor was buried at the Catholic Cemetery, West Terrace, on 13 February 1929.
Cornelius (Neil) Sullivan was born on 7 May 1874 at Woodside. He died at Parkside on 14 January 1943, survived by his widow Catherine and children Jack, Ivy, Melba and Jean.
P Robins Nov 2017